A Diversity of Diabetes Pills

Can diabetes pills help you?


If you or someone you love has diabetes, you know how important it is to manage it well. What happens if you don’t? You’re at risk for serious complications that can affect your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves—to name a few.1

Some people can manage diabetes with meal planning, weight loss, and exercise alone. Others also need medication. Pills to lower blood sugar levels are one type of drug used to treat diabetes.2

Can diabetes pills help you? Not if you have type 1 diabetes. Do you have type 2 diabetes? Then, you’re more likely to benefit if you’ve had diabetes for less than 10 years and your body still makes insulin. That’s the hormone that regulates sugar levels in your blood.2,3

There is more than one type of diabetes pill, and the FDA has approved several new ones in the recent past. Sometimes combining more than one type is the best solution. Or, your doctor may prescribe pills plus insulin. 2,3

There are many classes of diabetes pills. They help you control your diabetes in different ways. These drugs may do one or more of these things:

Stimulate the pancreas to release more insulin
Decrease the amount of sugar the liver produces
Make muscle tissue more sensitive to insulin
Help insulin work better
Lower blood sugar, but only when it gets too high in your body
Help the kidney get rid of extra sugar, which lowers levels in your blood
Block the breakdown of starches such as pasta and potatoes, and slow the breakdown of certain sugars, which slows the rise of sugar levels after eating
Both lower cholesterol and reduce blood sugar 2,4,5
Isn’t it amazing how many different ways these drugs work? If one doesn’t work well for you or if it stops working, another may be more successful.2,3 That’s because doctors and scientists think that the cause of type 2 diabetes is not the same for all people with the disease.6

If your doctor has prescribed one of these drugs, I can provide you with more information. To help avoid interactions with other drugs, print a list of all your medications, both prescription and over the counter. Bring that list with you when you come to talk to me.

I can answer other questions you might have about your medication, such as:

Are there special instructions for this medication?
Do I need to take the medicine with meals or at certain times of day?
Should I avoid taking this medication with any foods, vitamins, or supplements?
What are the most common short-term and long-term effects of this drug? 7
As you can see, the arsenal for fighting diabetes just keeps growing – and we haven’t even touched on new injectable and inhaled medications. Let’s save that for another day!

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.


WebMD: “The Risks and Complications of Uncontrolled Diabetes.” Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/risks-complications-uncontrolled-diabetes Accessed September 27, 2014.
American Diabetes Association: “Oral Medication.” Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/oral-medications/ Accessed September 27, 2014.
Joslin Diabetes Center: “Who Can Take Diabetes Pills?” Available at: http://www.joslin.org/info/new_who_can_take_diabetes_pills.html Accessed September 27, 2014.
EveryDay Health: “Meet the New Generation of Type 2 Diabetes Drugs.” Available at: http://www.everydayhealth.com/diabetes/meet-the-new-generation-of-diabetes-drugs.aspx Accessed September 27, 2014.
Joslin Diabetes Center: “Spotlight on New Diabetes Treatments.” Available at:
http://www.joslin.org/info/Spotlight_on_New_Diabetes_Treatments.html Accessed September 27, 2014.
MerckEngage: “Taking Medicines for Diabetes.” Available at: http://www.merckengage.com/common/article.aspx?ID=568 Accessed September 27, 2014.
Joslin Diabetes Center: “Oral Diabetes Medications Summary Chart.” Available at: http://www.joslin.org/info/oral_diabetes_medications_summary_chart.html Accessed September 27, 2014.